From the Brainroom: Tsunami Facts & Survival Guide


• Tsunamis have been generated in every ocean of the world.

• Sooner or later EVERY shoreline is struck by a tsunami.

• Tsunami is a Japanese word that translates to "harbor wave."

• Tsunami is different than a tidal wave. A tidal wave is periodic movement of water associated with the rise and fall of the tides. A tsunami is not a single wave but a series of waves, also known as a wave train.

• Tsunamis can travel across the ocean at speeds of more than 500 miles an hour.

• Tsunamis can take anywhere from a few minutes to as much as a day to travel to shore.

• Tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic eruptions (SEE BELOW for other potential causes.)

• Wave sensors in the ocean track the path of waves. This is the only way to determine what direction a tsunami might travel.

• An international warning system administered by the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was started in 1965 for the Pacfic Ocean.

• Tsunamis are much rarer in the Indian Ocean than the Pacific, where one occurs every few years.

• The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center is responsible for tsunami warnings for California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.


• Landslides in the offshore canyons off the East Coast of the U.S. can generate a tsunami, whether earthquake induced or not.

• Seiches are the sloshing of water in an enclosed body of water, which can result in tsunami-type waves.

• Lines of thunderstorms producing strong winds can push the water in a lake in one direction. When the wind stops, the pushed-up water rushes back, sometimes hitting the coast.

• Comet/asteroid strikes in the ocean produce some of the largest tsunami, which can extend inland for hundreds of miles. Two impacts occurred near New Jersey about 25 to 35 million years ago.


• 1938 has the greatest number of tsunamis on record: there were 19.

• Since 1900, no single year has been free of tsunamis.

• 17% of tsunamis have occurred in or near Japan.

• 10% of tsunamis have occurred in or near Alaska, the West coasts of the United States/Canada, and in or near Hawaii.

• 24 tsunamis have caused damage in the U.S. and its territories during the last 204 years.

• Since 1946, tsunamis have caused billions of dollars of property damage in Hawaii, Alaska, and the West Coast.

(National Weather Service)

• If you hear a tsunami warning, you should make sure you entire family is aware.

• If you live in a tsunami evacuation area, evacuate your house in an orderly, calm and safe manner to an evacuation site or to any safe place outside your evacuation zone.

• If you are at the beach or near the ocean and you feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground. DO NOT wait for a tsunami warning to be announced.

• Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean as you would stay away from the beach.

• Tsunamis generated in distant locations will generally give people enough time to move to higher ground.

• For locally generated tsunamis, where you might feel the ground shake, you may only have a few minutes to move to higher ground.

• High, multi-story, reinforced concrete hotels are located in many low-lying coastal areas. The upper floors of these hotels can provide a safe place to find refuge if you cannot move quickly inland to higher ground.

Click here for an in-depth tsunami diasaster guide.


American Red Cross

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have launched a preliminary appeal to assist those affected by the earthquake and tsunamis in Asia.

For information about friends or relatives who may have been affected, call 866-438-4636.


UNICEF is rushing relief assistance to the countries hardest hit by massive ocean flooding following Sunday's earthquake, working to meet the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of people who survived the tsunamis but now need shelter, water, medical supplies and other urgent assistance.

Save the Children US

Urgently seeking $5 million in private and public support for its emergency response through its new Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund . Gifts to the Fund will support, strengthen and allow the organization to quickly expand relief for children and their families in affected areas.


Already at work in most of the countries hit by the tsunamis, is mounting an emergency response. CARE's emergency response will include provision of items such as food, water purification tablets, soaps, shelter materials, basic medical supplies and cooking supplies.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres

MSF medical teams are on the ground in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar assessing emergency needs and offering assistance. MSF field teams in all countries where MSF is present, including Somalia and Kenya, are also investigating damage from the disaster.